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The Great War in Russian Memory

Karen Petrone

Publication Year: 2011

Karen Petrone shatters the notion that World War I was a forgotten war in the Soviet Union. Although never officially commemorated, the Great War was the subject of a lively discourse about religion, heroism, violence, and patriotism during the interwar period. Using memoirs, literature, films, military histories, and archival materials, Petrone reconstructs Soviet ideas regarding the motivations for fighting, the justification for killing, the nature of the enemy, and the qualities of a hero. She reveals how some of these ideas undermined Soviet notions of military honor and patriotism while others reinforced them. As the political culture changed and war with Germany loomed during the Stalinist 1930s, internationalist voices were silenced and a nationalist view of Russian military heroism and patriotism prevailed.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Indiana-Michigan Series in Russian and East European Studies


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p. ix

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pp. xi-xv

In September of 2001 I was home on sabbatical, working on a new project that I thought was about Soviet-era soldiers’ memoirs from both world wars, when I heard a news report on the radio that a plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center. As a native New Yorker, I turned on the television in time to witness the second plane...

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1 Introduction · The Great War in Russian Memory

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pp. 1-30

The Moscow City Fraternal Cemetery (also known as the All-R ussian War Cemetery) was one of the most visible war memorials created in imperial Russia during World War I (figure 1.1).1 First proposed by the Grand Duchess Elisaveta Fedorovna, it was organized by prominent Moscow civic leaders and dedicated with great solemnity...

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2 Spirituality, the Supernatural, and the Memory of World War I

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pp. 31-74

In the classic The Great War and Modern Memory, Paul Fussell identifies the desire to create “myth, ritual, and romance” about World War I as one of the key elements of wartime memory. Among his most noteworthy examples of myth is the “Golden Virgin” atop the ruined basilica at Albert in France. The statue of the Virgin and Child leaned precariously from the top of the basilica without falling. Rumors...

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3 The Paradoxes of Gender in Soviet War Memory

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pp. 75-126

Just days after World War I began, the Russian press glorified its first individual hero, the soldier who was awarded the first St. George cross of the war. In a decidedly uneven skirmish with the German cavalry (twenty-seven Germans to four Cossacks) on August 12, 1914 (Old Style), the Cossack Koz’ma Kriuchkov single-handedly killed eleven Germans in battle while suffering no fewer than sixteen...

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4 Violence, Morality, and the Conscience of the Warrior

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pp. 127-164

The French historians Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau and Annette Becker have suggested that the historical profession may be complicit in mythologizing and sanitizing war because, when it comes to describing wartime violence, “ ‘memory serves to forget.’ ” The testimony of combatants was largely silent about transgressing the “fundamental taboo . . . not to kill.” Few Western Europeans were as candid...

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5 World War I and the Definition of Russianness

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pp. 165-198

Notions of religious faith, the construction of heroes and enemies, representations of manhood and womanhood, justifications of wartime violence, and articulations of national identity are all inextricably intertwined. Although the previous chapters have focused primarily on the themes of religion, gender, and violence, they have also touched upon many aspects of national identity. Religious interpretations...

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6 Arrested History

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pp. 199-245

Even though World War I was never officially commemorated in the Soviet Union, there was a vibrant and multifaceted discourse about the war in the 1920s and the first half of the 1930s that explored the moral, psychological, and physical world of the soldier, his actions, his conscience, and the devastation that war brought to both soldiers and civilians. As in the rest of Europe, the number of novels and memoir...

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7 Disappearance and Reappearance

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pp. 246-281

In a World War I battle scene from Mikhail Sholokhov’s Quiet Flows the Don, Grigorii Melekhov, the archetypically brave Cossack warrior, suddenly became fearful before an attack on German trenches in November 1916. Sholokhov wrote: “Now as never before he was afraid for himself and for his men. He wanted to throw himself to the ground and weep, pouring his troubles out childishly to the...

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8 Legacies of the Great War

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pp. 282-300

The cataclysm of World War II forever changed the meaning and also the name of World War I in the Soviet Union as in the rest of Europe. In the last years of Stalin’s reign, the overwhelming task of rebuilding the country despite the loss of perhaps as many as twenty-seven million people overwhelmingly eclipsed the remembrance of...


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pp. 301-338


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pp. 339-358


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pp. 359-385

E-ISBN-13: 9780253001443
E-ISBN-10: 0253001447
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253356178

Page Count: 408
Illustrations: 27 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Indiana-Michigan Series in Russian and East European Studies
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OCLC Number: 747432043
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Great War in Russian Memory

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Collective memory -- Soviet Union -- History
  • War memorials -- Soviet Union -- History.
  • War and society -- Soviet Union -- History.
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Social aspects -- Soviet Union.
  • Soviet Union -- Politics and government -- 1936-1953.
  • Soviet Union -- Politics and government -- 1917-1936.
  • Political culture -- Soviet Union -- History
  • Patriotism -- Soviet Union -- History.
  • Soviet Union -- Social conditions -- 1917-1945.
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Influence.
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